Cerave Hydrating Cleanser Review: Bomb(dot)com

Harsh cleansers can strip away the natural oils that keep your skin hydrated and healthy. Since my winter skin is dehydrated and unhealthy, I thought I would try my hand at a moisturizing cleanser.

Cerave’s Hydrating Facial Cleanser seemed like an obvious choice. I mean, I’m a big fan of Cerave–their products are cheap and don’t break me out. This particular cleanser was no different. It provided gentle cleansing without the drying effects of a traditional cleanser.

Read through the rest of the article to find out what I really think about Cerave’s Hydrating Cleanser.

A Lather-less Application

Average, everyday cleansers contain foaming agents. So, they lather.

This cleanser doesn’t contain any foaming agents. Needless to say, it doesn’t lather.

I have to admit, the first few uses were a little weird. I wet my face, rubbed the cleanser in a circular motion, and nothing happened. It was like I was rubbing cold cream on my face. And I wasn’t convinced that I was actually cleaning off the sunscreen, dirt, sweat, oil, etc. that’s been accumulating on my skin all day. I decided to test things out by using micellar water (on a cotton pad) after I cleansed with Cerave. And guess what? The cotton pad came out clean! So it’s safe to say that this cleanser does it’s job.

After using it for about 2 months, I occasionally miss the traditional lather. But for the most part, I got used to the cleanser’s consistency.

Bottom line: This is a gentle/hydrating cleanser. Since it doesn’t contain harsh foaming agents, don’t expect it to lather.

Standard (But Efficient) Packaging

The cleanser comes in a 12-ounce bottle with a pump dispenser. The bottle is rectangular and non-bulky, so it fits perfectly in my bathroom vanity.

Beyond that, the pump is perfect. That means, you can control how much product comes out of it–no surprise squirts to see here, people. One pump is usually enough to cleanse my face. But sometimes I use a pump-and-a-half if I’m feeling extra-grimy.


Purified Water, Glycerin, Behentrimonium Methosulfate and Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6-11, Ceramide 1, Hyaluronic Acid, Cholesterol, Polyoxyl 40 Stearate, Glyceryl Monostearate, Stearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 20, Potassium Phosphate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Cetyl Alcohol, Disodium EDTA, Phytosphingosine, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum.


Glycerin is a humectant, meaning it attracts and retains water. Since glycerin is so hydrating, it’s often added to soaps and cleansers in order to counteract the drying effects of cleaning agents.

Behentrimonium Methosulfate is a conditioning emulsifier derived from rapeseed oil (not a misspelling). It’s found in a lot of hair conditioners, but in skincare, when it’s coupled with cetearyl alcohol, it provides slip to the product it’s in, allowing for better spreadability.

Ceramides are lipids that hold skin cells together. Even though ceramides degrade naturally (often through the aging process), you’re able to replenish them via cosmetics. Then again, since this is a face wash and it’ll only stay on your skin for a short time, you probably won’t receive any real benefits from the added ceramides in this product.

Hyaluronic Acid, like glycerin, is a humectant. There’s a lot of hype surrounding this ingredient. But the hype is well-warranted because it can hold 1000 times its weight in water. More importantly, HA can help hydrate skin, which is great (because the product is labeled as a “hydrating” cleanser).

Stearyl Alcohol is a long chain fatty alcohol that’s often derived from vegetable fatty acids (sometimes from coconut oil). In cosmetics, it’s often used as both an emulsifier (meaning it helps to keep your product from separating) and a moisturizing agent.

Parabens are preservatives–they prevent bacteria from spoiling cosmetics. There’s been a lot of hoopla about parabens over the years. So, if you have a problem with parabens, use Cerave’s Baby Wash instead–it has a lot of the same ingredients without any added parabens (see it here on Amazon).

Phytosphingosine is a skin lipid (aka it’s an essential part of your skin’s protective barrier). Interestingly, one study found that phytosphingosine can help treat acne via its anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.

The Caveat for Sensitive Skin

Although I haven’t experienced any breakouts when I introduced this cleanser into my routine, others have.

Judging by its reviews, it seems like people have a love-hate relationship with Cerave’s Hydrating Cleanser. That is, 50% of users love it and 50% of users experience closed comedones when they start using it.

I’m not entirely sure why this breaks people out. But I’m guessing it has something to do with fatty alcohols. Not that fatty alcohols are inherently bad–they’re not. In fact, fatty alcohols can keep your skin moisturized. The problem with them is that they’re sometimes derived from coconut oil, which some people are sensitive to.

Does It Remove Makeup?


The short answer: no.

This cleanser isn’t made to remove makeup. Whenever I’ve used it for this purpose, I’ve had to cleanse twice (or thrice) in order to get all my makeup off. So now I use the double cleanse method–use oil to loosen my makeup and use this cleanser to wash everything off.

To be fair, it does remove my tinted mineral sunscreen fairly well (check out my Australian Gold Botanical review here). It just can’t cut through mascara and/or eyeliner.

All in all: If you wear makeup on a daily basis and you rely on your cleanser to take it off at night, this might not be the best cleanser for you.

Did It Work?

About me: I have oily, dehydration-prone skin.

Related: Oily Skin Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Being a Greaseball

I’m always looking for products that (a) don’t make me look any oilier and (b) contain skin-replenishing ingredients. And this cleanser fits the bill.

I’ve been using it every night for the past 2 months–in the morning, I just splash my face with water. Unlike a lot of other cleansers that leave me feeling tight, this cleanser makes me feel balanced. I mean, I don’t have to rush to my moisturizer because this cleanser doesn’t strip the natural oils off my skin. Which feels great. Especially when I’m doing everything in my power to repair my skin’s moisture barrier.

The downside to its gentleness is that I sometimes feel like it doesn’t clean as well as a traditional cleanser. Or at least, it doesn’t cut through my makeup.

Another thing. When I use too much of this cleanser, I feel like it leaves a film on my face. So I normally cap my use at 1 pump.

The real question: Will I repurchase this?

Heck yes! While I’m going to move towards a foaming cleanser when spring rolls around, I’ll keep the Cerave Hydrating Cleanser in my back pocket–it’s my wintertime holy grail cleanser.

What I Liked

  • Gently cleanses skin
  • Didn’t experience any breakouts
  • Doesn’t contain fragrances or dyes
  • Packaging is non-bulky
  • Helped repair my dehydrated skin

What I Didn’t Like

  • Doesn’t lather
  • Doesn’t cut through mascara or eyeliner
  • Sometimes leaves a film on my face

Cerave Hydrating Cleanser: Final Verdict

My skin loves this stuff. First of all, it’s gentle. It doesn’t strip my skin (but it also doesn’t leave me feeling greasy). Second, it’s a no-fuss product. It doesn’t contain any crazy/irritating ingredients (like fragrances or dyes). And the non-bulky packaging fits really nicely in my bathroom vanity.

I know that some people have issues with it. But, if you ask me, it’s an all-around great product (except when it comes to makeup removal).

Check it out here on Amazon.

Or, if you want to learn more about Cerave’s Moisturizing Cream, check out this post: Cerave vs Vanicream: The Quest for the Holy Grail.

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